|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
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30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Philip Hughes, rhp Born: June 24, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-5 • Wt: 220|
|Drafted: HS--Santa Ana, Calif., 2004 (1st round) • Signed by: Jeff Patterson|
|Background: Hughes entered 2006 as the top prospect in the Yankees system, and he handled that pressure better than many of his predecessors. The Yankees also have handled Hughes well. Due to injuries, he pitched just 91 innings in his first two years in pro ball. None of his physical problems had been major: A stubbed toe limited him to five innings in his 2004 pro debut, and he had two stints on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and a tired arm in 2005. So his workload wouldn't increase dramatically, New York limited him to 80 pitches or five innings for most of the second half of 2006. He turned in one of the minors' best seasons and finished with a kick that had Yankees fans calling for his promotion for the stretch run. Instead of tiring as he pushed past 100 innings for the first time, Hughes dominated, giving up just 10 hits and two runs in his last 30 innings, then striking out 13 in six innings against eventual champion Portland in the first game of the Double-A Eastern League playoffs.|
Strengths: Hughes has it all, with the combination of stuff, feel and command to profile as a No. 1 starter. In the words of one club official, "His stuff and his command keep getting better," and they were pretty good to begin with. Hughes sits at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and touches 96. He can throw quality strikes with either his four-seamer or his upper-80s two-seamer. As he gains experience, his excellent control (his career K-BB ratio is 269-54) should evolve into above-average command. Hughes' greatest accomplishment as a pro has been to forsake his slider in favor of a knockout curveball, which is more of a strikeout pitch and produces less stress on his arm. It's a true power breaking ball that sits in the low 80s with 1-to-7 break. Club officials call it the best in the system because Hughes can throw it for quality strikes or bury it out of the zone, and because he uses the same arm slot and release point he uses for his fastball. While his slider is still a good pitch, he rarely throws it in games anymore.
Weaknesses: The biggest concerns for Hughes entering the season were durability and his changeup. He answered the former question emphatically, but his changeup remains an unfinished project. While he made progress, he doesn't control his change as well as he does his fastball and curve. Because the curve is still relatively new to him, it sometimes morphs into more of a slurve, but that's happening less often.
The Future: The Yankees' biggest need is a homegrown ace to join Chien-Ming Wang at the front of their rotation, and Hughes is nearly ready to give them just that. Hughes hasn't pitched in Triple-A yet and probably will start 2007 there with the club's new Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate, if only to get consistent work early in the season. No one would be shocked to see Hughes in the majors in June, just three years after being drafted.
|2.||Jose Tabata, of Born: Aug. 12, 1988 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 160|
|Signed: Venezuela, 2005 • Signed by: Ricardo Finol|
|Background: After signing for $550,000, Tabata raised expectations with an impressive debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2005. He was having a rousing encore at low Class A Charleston in 2006 before a thumb injury effectively ended his season in July.|
Strengths: Some hitters just seem to be born with the innate ability to get the fat part of the bat to the ball quickly, consistently and with power. That's Tabata. He has the bat speed to catch up to good fastballs and drive any pitch to any part of the park. His other tools are at least average, as he has flashed plus speed and arm strength. His coaches praise his ability to compete and rise to the occasion.
Weaknesses: Because he makes such easy contact, Tabata doesn't walk much, though he improved as the season went on. Scouts have noticed that he tends to coast and turn his talent on and off. His lower half already has thickened somewhat, and some think he could lose significant athleticism and speed as he gets older, relegating him to left field instead of right.
The Future: Tabata was healthy enough to return to the field in the Venezuelan League this winter, giving him needed at-bats against quality competition. A healthy, successful winter should leave him poised for a breakout 2007 season, and he has the talent to reach New York by the end of 2008.
|3.||Dellin Betances, rhp Born: March 23, 1988 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-7 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: HS--New York, 2006 (8th round) • Signed by: Cesar Presbott/Brian Barber|
|Background: Betances was considered a probable first-round pick early in the 2006 draft cycle, but his slow start in the spring, high price tag and commitment to Vanderbilt scared off many clubs. The Yankees popped him in the eighth round and met his $1 million asking price, erasing the bonus record for that round--which they set a year earlier when they gave Austin Jackson $800,000.|
Strengths: Betances' stuff is as good as anyone's in the system. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph and touched 98 in the club's fall minicamp. He uses a low-80s power curveball as an out pitch. His changeup has made significant strides in his short pro career and grades as a future plus pitch with sinking, diving action. He's athletic and intelligent, and adapted quickly to the mechanical adjustments New York asked him to make.
Weaknesses: While he's shown some feel for his changeup, Betances needs to throw it more to master it. At his size, he'll have to work to keep his mechanics in sync and maintain balance over the rubber. At times, he rushes his delivery, making it hard for his arm to keep up with his body and costing him command.
The Future: The Yankees already consider Betances ahead of schedule. He should make his full-season debut in low Class A in 2007. A potential No. 1 starter, he could become a local product who stars for the Yankees.
|4.||Joba Chamberlain, rhp Born: Sept. 23, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 225|
|Drafted: Nebraska, 2006 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Steve Lemke/Tim Kelly|
|Background: Chamberlain was hardly a pedigreed prospect as an amateur. He started pitching as a high school senior and went 3-6, 5.23 as a freshman for NCAA Division II Nebraska-Kearney. He transformed himself after transferring to Nebraska in Lincoln, having knee surgery, losing 25 pounds and blossoming into a dominant starter. When the Yankees drafted him 41st overall, he became the highest-drafted Native American ever.|
Strengths: Chamberlain throws four pitches for strikes, and his fastball is his go-to pitch. It sat at 94-97 mph during the Hawaii Winter Baseball season, and he throws it for quality strikes. His slider at times has depth and tilt and can be above-average, while his curveball and changeup are also solid.
Weaknesses: Projected to go in the first 10 picks, Chamberlain fell in the draft because of health questions. He missed time in the spring with triceps tendinitis, and his knee surgery and previous weight problems also scared off some clubs. He'll have to maintain his current body to maintain his stuff.
The Future: Chamberlain has the best combination of power and polish among 2006 Yankees draftees and will move quickly if healthy. He'll start 2007 in high Class A and should move quickly.
|5.||Ian Kennedy, rhp Born: Dec. 19, 1984 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 190|
|Drafted: Southern California, 2006 (1st round) • Signed by: Bil Mele/Jeff Patterson|
|Background: A high school teammate of Rockies prospect Ian Stewart, Kennedy was a 14th-round pick of the Cardinals in 2003 but didn't sign. He succeeded Anthony Reyes as Southern California's ace but was much better as a sophomore (12-3, 2.54) than as a junior (5-7, 3.90). Nonetheless, the Yankees drafted him 21st overall and signed him for an above-slot $2.25 million bonus.|
Strengths: Kennedy has excellent command, particularly for a young pitcher, thanks to his consistent delivery. His command helps his average stuff play up. He spots his fastball, which sits in the upper 80s and touches 92 mph when he's right, and throws a sinking changeup from the same arm slot and with similar arm speed. Even when he's not at his best, Kennedy keeps the ball down and doesn't give up many homers. He's savvy and intelligent and pitches with a plan.
Weaknesses: All of Kennedy's pitches took a step back during the spring, and his command wasn't enough to compensate. His changeup's regression and his loopy curveball kept him from putting away hitters with two strikes. His curve in particular needs help, as he tends to get around on it, costing it depth. He needs to stay tall in his delivery, lest his small stature work against him.
The Future: The Yankees believe in pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras and consider Kennedy the perfect project for him. If Contreras can help him tighten his curve and regain confidence, Kennedy will hop on the fast track. He's likely headed for high Class A in 2007.
|6.||Chris Garcia, rhp Born: Aug. 24, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 175|
|Drafted: HS--Miami, 2004 (3rd round) • Signed by: Dan Radison|
|Background: A high school catcher, Garcia shifted to the mound as a senior and emerged as a top pitching prospect. After missing a month in 2005 with an elbow strain, he was sidelined for much of 2006 by an oblique strain, but he looked strong when he returned.|
Strengths: Yankees officials believe Garcia has almost as much upside as Hughes. While Hughes' curve has passed his as the organization's best, Garcia's is still a plus pitch, particularly when he throws it with purpose and power. His fastball is consistently in the low 90s, and as he refines his mechanics and continues to gain experience, it could sit in the mid-90s. He's learning to work off his fastball more and rely on his curve less.
Weaknesses: Garcia has pitched just 197 innings in three years as a pro, though the Rule 5 draft changes mean the Yankees won't have to push him in 2007. His main challenges will be to stay healthy and show he can maintain his plus stuff consistently over an entire season. He also needs to improve his changeup.
The Future: Garcia made up for lost time by working with Charleston pitching coach Scott Aldred in Hawaii Winter Baseball. He'll start 2007 in high Class A and should be ready for New York in 2009.
|7.||Tyler Clippard, rhp Born: Feb. 14, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-4 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: HS--Trinity, Fla., 2003 (9th round) • Signed by: Scott Pleis|
|Background: In his third full pro season, Clippard did what he has done every season--get better. He got off to a rough start at Double-A Trenton but recovered with a dominant second half that included the first no-hitter in the Thunder's 13-year franchise history. He led the Eastern League in strikeouts and ranked fifth in the entire minors.|
Strengths: Clippard has figured out how put hitters away at every level without "wow" stuff. He frequently pitches backward because he can throw his curveball and changeup, both slightly above-average pitches, for quality strikes. His long arms and lanky body add deception to his delivery.
Weaknesses: Though he has filled out his frame to around 200 pounds, Clippard hasn't added fastball velocity. In fact, while he used to touch 94 mph, his fastball usually topped out around 92 in 2006 and sat at 88-90. When he misses, he misses up in the zone and is prone to giving up home runs.
The Future: Clippard still could use polish to tweak his mechanics and improve his fastball. He won't be an ace, but he should be a solid option as a No. 4 starter in the near future. He'll continue to move up one step at a time, heading to Triple-A in 2007.
|8.||J. Brent Cox, rhp Born: May 13, 1984 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: Texas, 2005 (2nd round) • Signed by: Steve Boros|
|Background: The closer for Texas' 2005 College World Series championship team, Cox led NCAA Division I with 19 saves that spring. He spent his first full pro season at Double-A, helping Trenton overcome a 0-10 start by serving as a workhorse set-up man. He finished the year with Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament.|
Strengths: Cox pounds the strike zone with pitches that hitters find nearly impossible to lift. His out pitch is a plus slider with depth that he can throw for strikes or bury to get strikeouts. His fastball sits at 88-91 mph and plays up because of its heavy sink and his ability to command it. His changeup made significant strides in 2006, helping him limit lefthanders to a .150 average. He's a fearless competitor who loves to pitch with the game on the line.
Weaknesses: Cox just doesn't have enough fastball to be a strikeout pitcher. He profiles better as a set-up man than as a closer, and that somewhat modest ceiling is the biggest knock on him.
The Future: With a big spring, Cox could pitch his way onto the big league roster. If he doesn't, he'll head to Triple-A and continue preparing for a set-up role.
|9.||Mark Melancon, rhp Born: March 28, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 210|
|Drafted: Arizona, 2006 (9th round) • Signed by: Andy Stankowicz/Jeff Patterson|
|Background: Arizona's single-season (11) and career (18) saves leader, Melancon projected as a first-round pick until a strained elbow ligament ended his junior season in April. Satisfied by the results of an MRI exam, New York snapped him up in the ninth round and signed him for $600,000. He had to leave Hawaii Winter Baseball after just four appearances with what initially was characterized as a sore arm.|
Strengths: At his best, Melancon has power stuff that fits the closer profile. His fastball ranges from 92-95 mph with late life. He attacks hitters high and low, with enough giddy-up on his heater to work up in and out of the strike zone, and a hammer 12-to-6 curveball. Coaches rave about Melancon's work ethic and positive contribution to team chemistry.
Weaknesses: Melancon's maximum-effort delivery puts stress on his elbow, and his missed time has limited attempts to tone it down. He avoided surgery in the spring and his setback in Hawaii isn't believed to be serious, but his health is still a concern.
The Future: A healthy Melancon would be the Yankees' leading in-house candidate to eventually replace Mariano Rivera at the back of the bullpen. He'll probably begin 2007 in high Class A.
|10.||Brett Gardner, of Born: Aug. 24, 1983 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 180|
|Signed: College of Charleston, of • Signed by: Steve Swail|
|Background: A former walk-on, Gardner became the highest-drafted player in College of Charleston history, going in the third round as a senior in 2005. He reached Double-A and ranked ninth in the majors with 58 steals in his first full pro season.|
Strengths: The organization's fastest runner, Gardner has earned 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for his speed and consistently turns in 4.0-second times from the plate to first base. He's an adept basestealer who succeeded on 83 percent of his attempts in 2006, and he covers the gaps well in center field. Gardner endears himself to scouts with his all-out hustle, while his plate discipline ranks as the best in the system. He stays within himself at the plate and sprays line drives from gap to gap, using a short swing he repeats well.
Weaknesses: With no power to speak of, Gardner will have to keep proving that he can hold his own against better pitching as he moves up the ladder. He has the bat speed to turn on balls inside, but he frequently gets beat on the outer half and fails to adjust. His arm is below average and his routes are erratic, though he usually outruns his mistakes.
The Future: With Johnny Damon signed for three more seasons, Gardner has time to prove he can drive the ball enough to become a regular. He's ticketed for Triple-A in 2007.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Hughes, Clippard: David Schofield
Tabata: Robert Gurganus
Cox, Gardner: Kevin Pataky
Chamberlain, Kennedy: Cliff Welch